Friday, December 15, 2006

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey anointed him presidential heir-apparent on “Larry King Live.” Three-thousand adoring fans clung to his every word in New Hampshire. His new book sits atop the New York Times best-seller list.

Over on Monday Night Football he announced, after “a good deal of soul-searching,” that he is ready (wink-wink)… “for the Bears to go all the way.” (How’s that for free advertising?) Barack Obama is on a big-time roll.

In a Washington minute, the Democratic senator from Illinois has the media saying, “Hillary Clinton who?” But every honeymoon must come to an end, and I can think of a few reasons Wall Street might want these nuptials annulled fast.

Last Sunday, while stumping — er, speaking — in New Hampshire, the young senator delivered an interesting line. Attempting to explain his sudden rock-star ascendancy to the pantheon of presidential hopefuls, Mr. Obama said voters wanted a new vision: “It’s a spirit that says we are looking for something different — we want something new.”

Trouble is, there’s nothing “new” or “different” about Barack Obama. Behind that charm and charisma — a media-entrancing appeal worthy of Bill Clinton — is an extremely liberal-left politician. Just look at his record.

Mr. Obama voted against the Bush tax cuts on capital gains and dividends, justifying his anti-growth stance with the old class-warfare saw about tax cuts for the rich. Of course, these are the very same tax cuts that spurred economic expansion, created record job growth, and reduced the deficit as revenues flooded the Treasury.

The young senator also voted against repealing the death tax. He dismissed it as a “Paris Hilton tax break” that would give “billions of dollars to billionaire heirs and heiresses.” Try telling that to the owners of farms, ranches, and small businesses who are forced to sell their legacies because of this tax.

He swings a nice protectionist bat, too. He has voted against free trade (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) and U.S. energy independence (drilling in Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge) and has opposed lifting a $0.54 per gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol. “Ethanol imports are neither necessary nor a practical response to current gasoline prices,” he claimed. Nonsense.

He also strongly opposes personal retirement accounts for Social Security reform, and prefers instead that the government stewards your money. As Amanda Carpenter wrote in Human Events, “When speaking out against various tax cuts, Mr. Obama has likened the ‘Ownership Society’ — which entails such things as personalized Social Security accounts, health savings accounts and school choice — to ‘social Darwinism.’ ”

The George W. Bush way has been to work toward ending the multiple taxation of savings and investment — to lower taxes and put the people’s money back in the people’s wallets. It’s all about capital. Simply put, the economy can’t grow without capital to fertilize the soil of new technologies, jobs and businesses. But Mr. Obama scoffs at such notions.

The senator is liberal to the core. He voted against Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. (Even liberal Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Pat Leahy of Vermont voted for Justice Roberts.) He said no to Patriot Act wiretap extensions, despite their proven effectiveness on halting terrorist attacks over the last five years. He collaborated in blocking John Bolton’s appointment to the United Nations. He earned a perfect 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He voted against a ban on partial-birth abortions twice as a state senator. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and stood against the Federal Marriage Amendment, despite acknowledging his belief marriage is between a man and a woman.

Let’s remember that Democrats won their congressional majority by doing their best impersonation of Republicans. In securing their November sweep, the Democrats captured a huge margin of independent Ross Perot voters — fiscal conservatives who favor balanced budgets, an end to deficit spending, and strong national security. Mr. Obama fails these independents on each account.

Do Democrats really want Mr. Obama to take them on a U-turn back to the left?

If the Democrats really want to embrace a rising star, they need look no further than Harold Ford, the young African-American congressman from Tennessee who nearly captured a Senate seat last month. Mr. Ford appreciates free markets and capitalism. He has boldly crossed party lines to vote to extend the investor tax cuts and expand tax-free savings accounts. He avoids class-warfare platitudes and embraces the Ownership Society. He’s optimistic — Reaganesque. And his pro-growth vision stands in stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s nanny-state predilection.

The good news for Mr. Obama is that there are about 700 days until Election Day 2008. If he decides to seek the Democratic nomination, he has time to change his message — perhaps after a few chats with Harold Ford.

Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company” and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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